A few weeks ago, I wrote a journal entry. And I was planning on keeping that to myself, because it’s personal. But after some conversations with people, who all seem to be going through (or have gone through) similar times in life, I felt a nudge to share it.
So, you lucky person you, you get to read what has evolved from a journal entry.
Jonathan Powers (the steward of the World Gospel Mission Student Center at my college campus) was speaking Sunday night at an event. He was talking about how we need to be open to whatever God is calling us to do to invest in our community and to contribute to spiritual vitality in those around us.
And this kind of struck me. I came to college with the mentality that I would get so much from my college; that I would grow and feed on the wisdom of those around me. I was fully prepared for my college to invest in me. Which makes me sound kind of like a parasite. And now that I have taken time to reflect, that’s just what it is: a parasite mentality.
Too often we (the millennials) base our decisions on what we can get, or experience. Just this past weekend, I was making plans with friends, but before I decided to commit, this thought ran through my head: “Well, hold on. Wait and see what your other friends are doing first”. Geez. Sorry guys, I really do value you.
This parasite mentality: “What can I get out of this?”, has gotten me into a lot of trouble. I go to a small, private Christian school, Asbury University. But I was drowning freshman through junior year. I starved myself of spiritual growth. I couldn’t understand it. Well, no, I didn’t have a “home church”, but I went to mandatory chapel services three times a week. And I wasn’t really involved in a small group, but I had a small group of friends, and that counts for something, right? The summer after my sophomore year, I no longer considered myself a Christian. And I hated myself. I hated how easily I had lost what I had believed to be a thriving faith. Not able to handle the guilt, I looked for a scapegoat. I started to hate Asbury.
Obviously, Asbury had failed to feed me spiritually. How could they have left such a fertile, willing soul to flounder this badly? Where was the lifeline that they were supposed to provide me?
This past spring, I went through an awakening. I did a pretty blunt review of my life. And my life looked a lot like crap. I read through some old journals from my high school days. I saw a thriving, spiritually healthy girl in those words. I broke inside.
I guess I’m in a place where I don’t feel like I can or should contribute to my community because it doesn’t feel like my mistakes and sins have been redeemed yet. But then I think, ‘That’s a stupid way to look at it because when will I ever feel like God has redeemed my sin?‘. So I guess I want to be vulnerable, and willing to do what God wants.
I still hesitate to identify with Christianity, and still struggle with my own doubts. But my faith is much less about me now. I learned the hard way that the parasite mentality is fundamentally wrong. Yet it permeates our entire society. I just watched a documentary on Netflix called “I Am” that addresses two of life’s biggest questions:
What is wrong with the world? And what can we do about it?
The documentarian is actually Hollywood director Tom Shadyac, famous for making movies like Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura. As he climbed the ladder of success and achieved the American Dream, he found himself unhappy and disillusioned. I viewed life as a ladder to be climbed. Except instead of climbing, I figured it would be more like an escalator and my peers and professors would lift me up to the top.
Asbury never wronged me, I wronged myself. I don’t know where you might be, but understand that it doesn’t matter where you think you are on this journey. God uses imperfect people. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s the point. How else could God demonstrate his perfection than by working through imperfect people to do really great things?
Personally, the only way I could kill the parasite mentality was by thinking about others above myself. In the end, it’s really not about me at all. I am not special, unique or a game changer. I am one in 7.12 billion people on planet Earth. I have a very small margin of influence. Which is cool, because God can still use that margin. So, dear reader, it’s your turn to kill the parasite mentality. Love God. Love others.